Become an Extension of Your Client’s Brand
As entities responsible for brokering appropriate carrier rates, ensuring accurate quantities of orders, and guaranteeing high quality of products, third-party logistics providers are extensions of companies' brands. The functions 3PLs perform help shape their clients' outwardly facing reputation. Here are the most effective ways to become an extension of your client's brand.
Carrier Brokerage—Save your client money so it can pass along savings to its own customers. Your 3PL can do this by brokering the best possible carrier rates for your client, whether your business uses an effective, built-in Transportation Management System (TMS) that automatically sets up auctions for carriers to bid for business, uses load planners to broker carriers, or some combination of both. Carrier brokerage is a win-win for your 3PL and client, adding profit to your 3PL's bottom line, saving the client on overall transportation spend, and securing future business with the client, provided the carrier performs well.
Regarding carrier performance and accountability, a TMS with capabilities to track and report carrier performance, including actual delivery and pickup times, can provide value for both your 3PL and your client. Consider a TMS with these functions.
Deliveries and pick-ups made on time, accompanied by a friendly demeanor and professional attitude, reflect your client's ability to handle last-minute and well-ahead-of-time requests.
Storage Space— Be willing to accommodate a client's need for multiple pricing options, such as storage costs by the pallet, square foot, linear foot, or pound. The flexibility might make the client's rate contract more complicated, but it will allow the client flexibility it can pass on to its own customers when fulfilling orders. Today's competitive retail market demands that companies fulfill orders rapidly and accurately. Allowing a company latitude in their storage space options helps it remain competitive—and well-branded—in the e-commerce industry.
Product Put-away— A 3PL's greatest asset is its employees. Material handlers who care about their jobs will commit to putting products away safely and accurately, using "First-In, First Out" methods, directed put-away technology, advanced barcode scanning, or some combination thereof. Treat your employees well, providing them with a fulfilling, safe, and profitable workplace, and they will treat your customers' products as if they were their own. Equally important is the concept of instilling in your employees the urgency with which products need to be put away in safe storage spaces. Careful handling results in high-quality products shipping out to the client's customers, cementing your client's reputation as a reliable brand.
Order Fulfillment— Similar to careful product put-away, quick-acting and motivated employees will work hard to ensure the client's customers receive their retail products as soon as and in the best condition possible. Provide employees with the technologies they need, like hip-mounted shipping label scanners and printers, RFGen, touchscreen tablet inventory systems and more, to fulfill orders. Some e-commerce companies promise customers same-day shipping—or even same-day delivery! These changing expectations in the retail industry put additional pressure on 3PLs and their employees to fulfill orders in an organized and appropriately prioritized fashion. Your e-commerce customer will thank you when its customers write glowing online reviews praising the company's prompt delivery times.
Saving your client money and fulfilling its business rules arguably are the biggest components of the company's customer service, allowing your client to brand itself as a competitively priced "rapid responder" in its respective industry. However, your 3PL's own face time with the client is important, too. Provide your clients with dedicated client service representatives, account managers or both. These professionals can help your client change aspects of its supply chain that are not working, such as observing flaws in its order entry system or noticing defects in shipping materials the client uses to ship orders. Communication and a pair of human eyes—or several—watching over clients' inbound and outbound products, whether virtually through an Order Management System or in person as a warehouse facility manager, add personal touches to your relationship with your client.
Additionally, automated programs can catch mistakes but lack the analytical ability to determine why mistakes are happening and prevent them from occurring in the future. Less shipping and storage mistakes deeper in your client's supply chain, starting with your 3PL's services, mean happier end customers touting your client's name as a leader—"the best"—in its industry.